Ace Records latest reissues: CD reviews

Here are some more vital recent releases from Ace Records, arguably one of the best reissue labels in the world reviewed by Ian Johnston.

1.Various Artists ”“ Rock Your Baby ”“ 24 Red Hot Rompers Chosen By Mark Lamarr

Ace Records: more great compilations reviewed


Mark Lamarr’s presence on Radio 2 is sorely missed. The daring comic and DJ’s brilliant God’s Jukebox show, with its thrillingly eclectic selection of hidden gems from just about every possible genre of popular music you can think of, from the 1920’s through to the present day, was essential and constantly entertaining listening.

Those still mourning his absence should get a boot out of this fabulous collection compiled and noted by “children’s favourite uncle” Lamarr of “24 rollicking, child-friendly offerings guaranteed to satisfy kids of all ages.”Â Of course, this is really a good excuse for a rollicking compilation of vintage R&B, rock ”˜n’ roll, country and calypso numbers with nonsensical lyrics ”“ which Lamarr delivers by the bucket load. ‘Rock Your Baby’ kicks off in style with R&B legend Louis Jordan’s 1947 hit ”˜Barnyard Boogie’, before taking in the “unrestrained stupidity” of DJ King Coleman’s 1967 ”˜The Boo Boo Song’, the hirsute White Knight Of Soul Wayne Cochran‘s bizarre 1963 rock ”˜n’ roll song ”˜Monkey Monkey (You Do It Like This)’ and Johnny Cash’s mean ”˜Nasty Dan’, from The Man In Black’s 1975 waxing The Johnny Cash Children’s Album. 

Other highlights include Cliffie Stone’s 1951 country and western swing ditty ”˜Jump Rope Boogie’, Lord Flea and his Caplyponians 1951 Caribbean number ”˜Naughty Little Flea’, the R&B living legend Andre Williams’ classic 1957 dance craze anthem ”˜The Greasy Chicken’, actor and former rodeo cowboy Sheb Wooley’s ”˜Monkey Jive’ and the 1958 echo drenched ”˜Boppin’ To Grandfather’s Clock’ by Sidney Jo Lewis aka Hardrock Gunter, “That Rockin’ Man From Alabam!” If you haven’t got a broad smile on your face by the time this CD finally grinds to a halt, you really should check your pulse.

All this, and a really cool 50’s/early 60’s stylechildren’s illustration by Nickolas Nelson of aquiffed and tattooed rockin’ toddler driving an orange souped-up baby carriage. Also, if you do actually have children, the whacked out Rock Your Baby might just keep the little darlings entertained for a while during a long car journey.

2. Takeshi Terauchi ”“ Nippon Guitars: Instrumental surf, Eleki & Tsugaru Rock 1966-1974.

As compiler Howard Williams writes in his highly informative liner notes, guitarist Takeshi Terauchi is more “an elemental force” than a legend”“ aunique position for a rock musician in Japan. While not that well known in the West, he has receivedacclaim down the years from artists as diverse as The Ventures, Quentin Tarantino and Jello Biafra. 

An 8th Dan of the Wado school of Karate and a Zen master of the Zuiganji temple, he is also a pioneer in the history of Japanese guitar music, record producer, author and businessman who still finds time to play for charity. Terauchi, nicknamed “Terry” by Americans who could not pronounce his name properly, is a former hard drinking,guitar-thrashing nonconformist who governed his band with a fist of iron while his free hand gave the tremolo arm a serious workout. His early recordings date back to the late 1950s, with the country and western outfit Jimmy Tokita and the Mountain Playboys. Now in his early 70s, he isthankfully still recording. 

Terauchi has released a huge number of records in his long career, embracing country, surf, Hawaiian, rock’n’roll, funk and classical. He traversed the wave of the Eleki explosion, a musical styleencircling surf and beat instrumentals. The Ventures’ first trip to Japan in 1962 ignited the movement, although the trend started in earnest in 1964, when Terauchi and media promoter Nabe Pro organised a huge gig headlined by the Animals and the Ventures at the Kousei Nenkin Kaikan in Tokyo. This was the year that Takeshi Terauchiand the Blue Jeans released their debut album “Korezo Surfing” (Let’s Go Surfing). 

Sales of electric guitars in Japan went through the roof. There were several bands playing Eleki ”“ notably, according to Williams, the Spacemen and Yuzo Kayama and the Launchers ”“ but, equippedwith his custom red Fender Jaguar, Takeshi Terauchi and his Blue Jeans led the front line. 

Terauchi correctly rejects insinuations that he wassolely influenced by the Ventures, although they were certainly no hindrance to his meteoric rise, and he often played a Mosrite, a gift from the band.His music could only have emanated from Japan, and the tracks on this collection (”˜Ginza No Onna’, ”˜Ai no Kizuna’ from 1971) provide thesubstantiation. Many are versions of traditional Japanese folk songs (Minyo), a style that became much copied. Terauchi’s speedy “shredding” technique could be said to echo Tsugaru shamisen, a unique blues-like style of percussive, semi-improvised playing from northern Japan. He revisited some of these standards for his 1974 album “Tsugaru Jongara” with the re-formed Blue Jeans.

Nippon Guitars is a fantastic introduction to Takeshi Terauchi’s unique and blistering music.  This CD (thankfully also issued as a vinyl release) covers of some of the finest beat/surf instrumentals(1966’s ”˜Hoshi Eno Tabiji (Journey to the Stars)’, ”˜South Pier’), late 1960’s Boogaloo motivated jams(”˜Let’s Go Boogaloo’,’Summer Boogaloo’),traditionalmusic inspired tunes (1967’s ”˜SadoOkesa’) and later raw Tsugaru-influenced rockworkouts (”˜Nambuzaka Yuki No Wakare’ and”˜Jiricho Sangokushi’, a traditional song concerning an infamous Yakuza gangster Terauchi adapted in 1972) from his extensive and diverse career.

3. Etta James ”“ Losers Weepers With Bonus Tracks

Thankfully, Ace are continuing to release expanded versions of several of the great Etta James’ classic but overlooked Argo, Cadet and Chess albums. 

Compiled by Mick Patrick, with notes by Dennis Garvey, Etta James’ incredible 1970 album ‘Losers Weepers’ is the latest to receive the full Ace treatment, after the recent re-release of the classic 1967 LP ‘Call My Name’ and the fine compilation ‘Etta James ”“ Who’s Blue? Rare Chess Recordings Of The 60s & 70s’. ‘Losers Weepers’ really brings into sharp relief some of her greatest music that quickly disappeared when originally released, in part because of James’ pretty dire personal situation during this period (the death of her mentor Leonard Chess, trying to raise a baby son, a raging heroin addiction, various drug-related illnesses, disillusionment with fame, arrests and incarceration) but mostly because she was regarded by many as being a spent R&B unit shifting force. 

Etta James was in pretty terrible physical shape when she made these devastating recordings, but her unbridled reliance upon narcotics astonishingly did not influence her exceptional recordings. ”˜Heavy Soul’ was the fashionable phrase of late 60s/early 70s and the power in the two-part title track entirely classifies the expression. Etta James‘ transcendent versions of the great American songbook standards ”˜I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)’, ”˜The Man I Love’ and the emotionally gripping ”˜For All We Know’ are the logical continuation of her enduring late 1960’s collaborations with the talented arranger Riley Hampton, which sired the ageless ‘At Last’ album.

On the eleven bonus tracks, Etta James is on equally spirited form.  The funky ”˜Tighten Up Your Own Thing’ should have been a huge hit (”˜Quick Reaction And Satisfaction’ also brings the funk), while her revival of the Falcons’ R&B masterpiece”˜I Found A Love’ matches that of the song’s original singer, Wilson Pickett. A 1972 Wah- Wah guitar powered version of James 50’s Modern label recording ”˜W.O.M.A.N’ brings even more swagger and licentiousness to the material (produced the same year she did time in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island prison), while ”˜Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing’ unflinchingly stares into the abyss of total heartbreak.

Etta James is currently seriously ill and highly unlikely to ever record again, but providentially her back catalogue is full of masterworks such as ‘Losers Weepers’ that will ensure her immortality.  You really do need this music in your life.

4. Various Artists – The Flash Records Story

Charlie Reynolds was one of the numerous black entrepreneurs in 1950s Los Angeles who started his own independent record company, hoping to cash in on America’s post-war rhythm and blues trend. As the owner of the popular Flash Record Shop at 623 East Vernon Avenue, South Los Angeles, he knew what teenage customers were purchasing. Functioning from his back room, Reynolds released 31 blues, R&B, doo-wop, and embryonic soul records between 1955 and 1959. One of them (The Jayhawks‘ ”˜Stranded In The Jungle’) even spent a couple of weeks in the national Top 40 charts. Yet Reynolds soon discovered, the indie record business was, and probably still is, a hustler’s game. The escalating costs of payola and his distributors’ refusal to pay royalties for the last single until the next one sold eroded his profit margin. He ultimately let Flash Records evaporateinto the mists of African American music history. But, as this dynamic 2-CD, 60-song set evinces, Reynolds had a terrific run and produced more than his fair share of exhilarating and laudable material.

Noted by Jim Dawson with compilation and archive research by Roger Armstrong, The Flash Records Story contains nearly every Flash release ”“ most of them on CD mastered directly from the original tapes for the first time ”“ along with a few tracks that remained in the can. Gutbucket bluesdevotees will dig the blues trio of Sidney Maiden (”˜Hurry, Hurry, Baby’), Haskell Sadler (”˜Gone For Good’) and Bee Brown (the raunchy ”˜Mambo For Dancers’), not to mention singer-guitarist Frank Patt with pianist Gus Jenkins’ band (the powerhouse ”˜Just A Minute Baby’ and the Latin rhythms of the vengeful ”˜You Going To Pay For It Baby’), and no nonsense female blues singers Sheryl Crowley (the 45. packin’ ”˜It Ain’t To Play With!’) and Mamie Jenkins (”˜Jump With Me Baby’). There are also sophisticated blues balladeers James Curry (”˜Still Longing For You’), Paul Clifton (the angry, harmonica powered ”˜Are You Alright?’) and Buddy Cypress (”˜Don’t Forsake Me (Bop To De Lao)), boogie woogie pianist Judge Davis (the self explanatory ”˜Mr. Boogie’), nascent black sex symbol Nip Roman (”˜Darling I Need You’) and honking tenor saxophonistMaurice Simon (the label’s instrumental anthem ”˜Flashy’). 

LA’s most popular form of R&B in the 1950s was doo-wop, and Flash’s roster of vocal groups is most impressive. The Jayhawks, who wrote and recorded the 1956 original version ”˜Stranded In The Jungle’, one of Flash’s biggest hits and memorably covered by The Cadets the same year and by The New York Dolls in 1974, have all their Flash singles featured and their amazing if tumultuous story documented. Flash’s other vocal group singles were one-off affairs but no less impressive: the mysterious Emanon 4, with their lingering, gospel influenced harmonies on ”˜Blues For Monday’; The Hornets, four servicemen aboard the USS Hornet aircraft carrier who drove to Los Angeles during aweekend leave and recorded only two songs in a Watts garage studio ”“ the fantastic ”˜Tango Moon’ and ”˜Crying Over You’; The Poets from LA’s Jefferson High School, whose ”˜Vowels Of Love’ became a popular record several years later during the early 60s doo wop revival; and a hip supergroup of doo wop veterans who named themselves The Cubans. The Cuban’s recordings are so extraordinary Ace have included their entire session of five songs, plus an alternate take of the wonderful ”˜You’ve Been Gone So Long’. Obviously, the collection is accompanied by a large booklet brimming with amazing photos of The Flash artists and newly revealed information.

Ace has always excelled at this type of record label overview and The Flash Records Story must be in the upper echelons of the packagesthey have created to date. An essential purchase.

5. Various Artists: Dynamic Grooves: Funk And Groovy Soul From The Vaults of Scepter, Wand, Dynamo and Musicor

In 1960’s New York both the Scepter, Wand,  and Dynamo group of labels were at the peak of the independent label scene. They had hit artists from across the whole musical gamut, but with a strong emphasis on soul. By the late 60s, as that soul world was starting to be strongly influenced by James Brown’s groundbreaking funk, they were in a position as established operators in the business to sign up recordings from all around the United States of America. ‘Dynamic Grooves’, compiled and sleeve noted by Dean Rudland, focuses on the labels’ output providing a snapshot of the scene in which they worked.

This magnificent CD acts as a grand musical tour of the USA. ‘Dynamic Grooves’ begins in New Orleans with several works produced by the renowned Allen Toussaint including the unbelievable ”˜Funky Belly’ by Warren Lee, Earl King’s groovy ”˜Tic Tac Toe’, Johnny Moore’s proto-funk ”˜A Dollar 98′ and Allen’s 1970 version of his own great standard ”˜Working In A Coalmine’. 

The trip continues. In Memphis, Joe Arnold’s hypnotic ”˜Soul Trippin”. From the Carolinas the blue-eyed funk of the Backyard Heavies‘ ”˜Chitlin’ Strut’; Benny Gordon’s backing band the Soul Brothers with their strident ”˜Horsing Around’ andfrom Washington DC, ”˜new man’ Harmon Bethea and the Maskmen’s outrageous 1970 groove ”˜She’s My Meat’. Harmon Bethea’s band leader Billy Clark’s 1968 ”˜Soul Party Part 1‘ is even better, unadulterated boogaloo funk guaranteed to boost any party. In Philadelphia George Tindley mixes early Motown with late 60s Motown to create a Temptations-like version of Marvin Gaye’s ”˜Ain’t That Peculiar’. Chicago provides plenty of funky grooves from Betty Moorer, Jerry O and General Crook‘s awe-inspiring 1974 funk odyssey ”˜Fever In The Funk House’. 

Back on Dynamo’s home turf, their leading act Charles & Inez Foxx, who perfectly straddle the boundary between funk and soul with their ”˜(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count The Days’, one of several hits they scored for the label during the late 60’s when label boss Luther Dixon married Inez. There is also some blistering funk from Little Grady Lewis on the 1970 cut ”˜Soul Smokin’ Part 1‘ and one of the finest chunks of Latin funk ever recorded”˜Machine Shop Part 2 by the aptly named Untouchable Machine Shop. 

Twenty-one tracks of varied and exhilarating soul and funk music ”“ Dynamic Grooves is the essence of the fine work done by New York’s labels finest in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 


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